FEMS Microbiol Rev. 2017 Feb 25. doi: 10.1093/femsre/fuw046.
Our microbiota presents peculiarities and characteristics that may be altered by multiple factors. The degree and consequences of these alterations depend on the nature, strength and duration of the perturbations as well as the structure and stability of each microbiota. The aim of this review is to sketch a very broad picture of the factors commonly influencing different body sites, and which have been associated with alterations in the human microbiota in terms of composition and function. To do so, first, a graphical representation of bacterial, fungal and archaeal genera reveals possible associations among genera affected by different factors. Then, the revision of sequence-based predictions provides associations with functions that become part of the active metabolism. Finally, examination of microbial metabolite contents and fluxes reveals whether metabolic alterations are a reflection of the differences observed at the level of population structure, and in the last step, link microorganisms to functions under perturbations that differ in nature and aetiology. The utilisation of complementary technologies and methods, with a special focus on metabolomics research, is thoroughly discussed to obtain a global picture of microbiota composition and microbiome function and to convey the urgent need for the standardisation of protocols.